Saturday, October 15, 2016

Memories

How reliable do you think your childhood memories are? Are all those half-remembered events and general impressions from decades ago truly representative, or are they distorted through filters your life has since placed around them?

I got to wondering about this recently, with the unusually damp Autumn we’re enjoying up on the west coast. The last couple of days in particular, I’ve been saying to myself, this reminds me of Guernsey winters.

My recollection, especially from my teens, is of long spells of leaden skies, blustery winds, and endless rain. Day after day I’d wait for the bus, trudge up through St. Peter Port to school, and dash from class to class (my school was spread out over many separate buildings) to the sound of drops pattering on my umbrella. Rain coats and umbrellas were essential accessories.

When we moved from Guernsey to Victoria, we remarked again and again how different conditions were here. Yes, annual rainfall is pretty similar but here it mostly seemed to fall at night. Hauling groceries in a wet dash to & from the car seemed to be consigned to an occasional (as in maybe once or twice a year) discomfort rather than the expected norm.

As people in the office grumble, I find myself glibly saying, this is nothing compared to where I came from. But at the same time I can’t help wondering how objective I can be. Having made such a drastic move twelve years ago, it’s easy to fall into the trap of selective memory. We want our new home to be better, to have made the right decision, so are we selectively playing up the good sides and contrasting with the frustrations of our former home?

How about you? How do you view your life from year ago, and what filters today might be unwittingly distorting those memories?

10 comments:

  1. The really negative and really positive stand out and our minds probably amplify reality.
    I don't think where I last lived was better or worse. It was just different.

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  2. I've often wondered whether my childhood memories are as accurate as I believed. I will have this vivid memory of an event and it shocks my mom that I remember something from so long ago, with such astute detail. Other times I share an equally vivid memory only to be told that I may have the memory right, but parts of it or the actual location wrong. You've given me something to ponder.

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  3. Alex, that's an excellent example of a distorting filter right away! We remember the (few) outstanding impressions and not the multitude of mundane things that might counter them.

    Melissa, I have vivid but isolated snapshots from very early on too, but the mind has a tendency to make up context to fill in gaps in actual memory.

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  4. Hi Ian - I'm about to write my memoirs out ... only for me - but there's a lot of family history that won't be co-joined except by me ...

    I have put a couple of things on the blog ... I wrote 3 posts on the major freeze we had in 1962/3 - it was a bad and made a huge impact on me ...

    I probably will infill with some historical takes - as I do on my blog ... I chased a game we played as kids - and found it in the Canterbury Cathedral shop last year!

    Funny old world isn't it ...
    https://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2016/10/14/a-memory-of-childhood-boardgames-on-display/
    this popped up the other day ... and I haven't visited the museum ... but must do sometime.

    Recent changes are pretty horrific and interesting - but another chapter or two in life ... I'm coping - but I'll be glad to be out the other side of what's going on ...

    Interesting post .. cheers Hilary

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  5. Hilary, I was only 2 years old at the time but I actually remember some things from that winter freeze. We walked across the common near our home to a hill to go sledding. It seemed deep to me, but on reflection could only have been a foot or so of snow. That's another filter we remember through - everything seemed so much bigger as a child and we don't mentally adjust.

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  6. You know, I'm of the opinion that whatever filters I've placed over my old memories are fine. I'm good to accept them as I recall and move forward with my current perspective on life, but isn't that how it is for everyone? Take two people in the exact same place and moment, and they come away with different perspectives.

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  7. Crystal, everyone will remember things their own way, that's for sure!

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  8. Yep, memory can be a strange thing. But I definitely remember winters being cold and long in my country town in Queensland. Nowadays, winter in Queensland lasts about 2 weeks and it's been decades since a tap froze, lol! Oh, maybe global warming is actually happening!

    Denise :-)

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  9. I seem to be immersed in memories from a year ago as it is the anniversary of our much planned USA trip.
    Older memories of seasons seem to show how much the weather patterns seem to have changed. I am sure it was warmer at this time of the year than now, and Summers were longer and hotter, although maybe I am mistaken..

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  10. Denise, although I'm sure global warming is real it's dangerous to go by local experience. The shift is over global averages but with huge local variability giving the skeptics fuel for distraction. You'll probably have more frozen taps to come yet before they really do become nothing more than a memory :)

    Trish, you may be mistaken or you may not. You'd have to dig back into old records to find out.

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